Class of ’22: Twin sisters find purpose in helping others 

Twins Zena and Tanya Moaikel
Zena, left, and Tanya Moaikel

To mark the graduation of the Class of 2022, Detroit Mercy’s Marketing & Communications Department is profiling several students who were nominated by staff and faculty for their contributions to the University and their potential to make a difference after graduation. For more information about 2022 commencement exercises, please click here. 

Tanya and Zena Moaikel nearly missed out on what would become their favorite part of their University of Detroit Mercy experience. 

The twin sisters from Woodhaven, Mich. were last-minute attendees for Prologues, Transitions and Viewpoints (PTV), the University’s freshman orientation program, in 2018. 

“It ended up being the best experience of our life,” said Tanya, a Biology major. “We always talked about how glad we were we went.” 

Taking part in freshman orientation firsthand led the Moaikels to become orientation leaders as soon as they could to help other incoming students transition into Detroit Mercy. 

“During my freshman year, when I was participating in orientation, I had just loved seeing the leaders and how they would interact and how much of an impact they had on us,” said Zena, a Nursing major. “I just wanted to have that kind of impact on students like they had on me. I love the community they built together.” 

Having impacted hundreds of incoming Detroit Mercy students over the past three years, Zena and Tanya are now ready for the next steps in their lives: They both will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in May from the University. The sisters also minored in Leadership. 

“All of the connections you make, not only with other students that you’re helping and teaching, but even other orientation leaders, it’s a bond that can never be broken,” Tanya said. “It’s really cool.” 

The Moaikel sisters helped with freshman orientation for three years. Tanya became an orientation director and supervised 24 orientation leaders. Zena, an orientation leader, helped students get engaged with campus life throughout the year, according to Dorothy Stewart, associate dean of students at Detroit Mercy. 

“Tanya helped her student leaders lead the way in navigating CDC protocols while trying to provide the maximum in fun experiences on campus,” Stewart said. “Zena lived the mission of being an orientation leader all year round.” 

Attending the same university wasn’t initially part of their plans. 

Tanya, wanting to become a dentist since her sophomore year of high school, quickly selected Detroit Mercy for its pre-dental track. Zena explored other universities at first, but being directly admitted into Detroit Mercy’s McAuley School of Nursing was too appealing to pass up. 

Volunteering at a nursing home while in high school inspired Tanya to want to become a dentist. She saw that residents’ oral care was being neglected, which made the field stand out to her. During her time at Detroit Mercy, Tanya shadowed dentists for more than 300 hours and is training to be a dental assistant. 

When it came time to pick an undergraduate major, Biology was an easy choice for Tanya, as it was her favorite subject growing up. 

“I’ve always been interested in Biology,” Tanya said. “In high school, I would go after class and talk to all of the science teachers. I just wanted to learn all this cool stuff about science. I knew if I majored in Biology in college, it would broaden my science experiences and would tie into dentistry.” 

Nursing became Zena’s choice for several reasons: her love of children and working with them and the many options nurses have when it comes to careers. She has worked as an extern at Beaumont Taylor for more than a year and hones her nursing skills through clinicals. 

“I just like helping people get to where they want to be,” she said. 

The Moaikels’ involvement on the McNichols Campus wasn’t limited to just freshman orientation. Both sisters were part of several organizations, including the Lebanese Student Association, where they worked with students from other Michigan universities to host its gala in February. 

Tanya was involved with the Biology Club, Pre-Dentistry Student Association and Students for Orphan Relief, where she and fellow Titans made packages for orphaned children. 

As a member of the Student Nurse Association, Zena assisted with blood drives and COVID vaccine clinics. She was also a part of CRU, a ministry organization. 

While freshman orientation had a significant impact on their Detroit Mercy experience, Tanya and Zena have many warm memories from their time at the University. 

Tanya learned a lot from being a teaching assistant in a chemistry lab, which provided a different glimpse of university life. Nursing clinicals had quite the impact on Zena, who fondly remembers how appreciative the nurses and patients she worked with were. 

Both sisters enjoyed volunteering at the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference when Detroit Mercy hosted it in 2019, and appreciate the University’s service-learning courses and Leadership minor. 

“We’re in a Leadership course right now and we get to work with middle schoolers and teach them lessons every week,” Zena said. “All of those service-learning classes have been really impactful.” 

Although their paths will soon diverge, they share great memories of Detroit Mercy.  

“Having such a small and tight-knit community makes everything feel more real,” Tanya said. “It just feels like the real world and I think it’s preparing us to go out and be ready when we go into our jobs. When you come here, you’re just reminded that there’s actually good people here in the world.” 

“I think at bigger places, you kind of get lost at how big everything is. You don’t see the same people every day,” Zena added. “Here, you’re seeing all your friends and everyone else all the time. It just helps you build those closer connections. I feel like having that teamwork and community helped prepare me better.” 

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